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First dedicated Pancreas Center in Central Florida

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Q&A with Dr. Mustafa A. Arain, director, Pancreas Center at AdventHealth Center for Interventional Endoscopy.

You recently helped launch the Pancreas Center at AdventHealth Center for Interventional Endoscopy? Why is the Center needed and how does it benefit patients in Central Florida?
The AdventHealth Center for Interventional Endoscopy (CIE) launched Central Florida’s first dedicated Pancreas Center in December 2021, so we’re the new kid on the block. Central Florida is a dynamic region with a growing and diverse population. There is an unmet need for specialized care for patients with established or a new diagnosis of a pancreatic disorder. The most common of these, pancreatitis, typically manifests with abdominal pain which at times can be debilitating, nausea and vomiting, inability to eat, diarrhea and weight loss due to exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), and diabetes.

Pancreatic conditions can be difficult to diagnose, and the symptoms can be difficult to treat. This often results in patients getting suboptimal care. Our goal at the Pancreas Center is to have a dedicated clinic in which patients can be accurately diagnosed and all aspects of their pancreatic diseases be addressed in a comprehensive manner.

What is the primary focus of the Pancreas Center at AdventHealth Center for Interventional Endoscopy?
Our focus is on caring for each patient with pancreatic disease as a whole person – mind, body, and spirit. The primary goal at the Pancreas Center is to accurately diagnose these conditions and make sure each patient is getting the combination of treatments that’s right for them, including medical, endoscopic, and surgical options using a multidisciplinary approach. We believe better diagnosis and disease management is crucial to improving the quality of life of our patients.

We often hear of the pancreas in relation to pancreatic cancer. What does the pancreas do?
The pancreas has two primary functions: First, to make bicarbonate to neutralize stomach acid and enzymes that are secreted into the intestine and help break down food, which is then absorbed by the small intestine. A lack of these enzymes in pancreatic diseases leads to exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) or the inability to properly digest food. This can present with diarrhea or loose fatty stool, gas/bloating, weight loss and vitamin deficiency. The other important function of the pancreas is to make important hormones like insulin. Pancreatic diseases can therefore be associated with diabetes (due to insufficient insulin production) as well.

Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is a devastating disease which can present with some of the above-mentioned symptoms as well as abdominal or back pain and jaundice (due to the tumor causing obstruction of the bile duct as it passes through the pancreas).

What kind of pancreatic diseases are you seeing and treating at the Center?
We treat a range of pancreatic conditions, including recurrent acute and chronic pancreatitis, hereditary pancreatitis, and complications associated with pancreatitis including pancreatic enzyme insufficiency (EPI), pseudocyst drainage and stone and stricture management. We also see patients with pancreatic cysts and customize their management using an evidence-based approach. We treat exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) and complex diseases of the pancreatico-biliary system. The Pancreas Center at CIE also offers hereditary pancreatic cancer screening to help identify pancreatic cancer in earlier stages and help find the right treatments for patients with the disease.

What kind of treatments exist for pancreatic conditions?
Everyone is different, of course, so we begin the care journey with a clinical consultation and diagnostic evaluation and a customized treatment plan. The evaluation may include imaging studies such as CT scans, MRI/MRCP (a dedicated MRI of the pancreatic and biliary ducts) and endoscopic ultrasound. Treatment can include nutritional and pancreatic enzyme supplementation, and endoscopic therapy, including endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) as well as other modalities including surgery. The treatments are just part of the disease management plan, and our CIE team is committed to working in close partnership with referring physicians to co-manage patients throughout the process.

Are you involved in pancreatic research at AdventHealth CIE?
The CIE physician team is active in ongoing research to explore clinical outcomes and help identify potential new treatments for pancreatic conditions. Our patients at the Pancreas Center will have access to both local and national clinical trials as part of their disease management.

"Pancreatic conditions can be difficult to diagnose, and the symptoms can be difficult to treat." - Dr. Mustafa A. Arain, AdventHealth Center for Interventional Endoscopy

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